Monday, January 26, 2015

The Toponymic Geographies of Commemorated African-Americans

Eliot M. Tretter's "The Power of Naming" explores toponyms (place names), specifically those commemorating African American notables. Before launching into his methodology, he explored the history of certain toponyms having to do with African American people (namely racist toponyms). As for his methodology, he collected the names of thirty African American notables and surveyed the number of toponyms using their names (like schools, streets, etc.) in the United States. His findings yielded that most toponyms honoring African American notables could be found in the South, New York, and California (all places with large black populations). Toponyms could usually be found in the home states of whoever they honored, but they also occurred in other states in which these individuals had a strong presence. There were certainly many MLK Jr. commemorations in his findings (which was no surprise to me; the number was well over 1000); and the names of men were more prevalent than the names of women when it came to these toponyms. However, Sojourner Truth was the woman with most toponyms that commemorated her name. It was very interesting that he portrayed whiteness as a racial category, as it is generally not treated as such (as it is generally seen as the "norm"). His concern to meet the standards of current critical race studies made this article

Source: Eliot M. Tretter (2011): The Power of Naming: The Toponymic Geographies of Commemorated African-Americans, The Professional Geographer, 63:1, 34-54

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